Friday, October 31, 2008

NEA Opera Honors

The National Endowment for the Arts has announced the winners of the first annual Opera Honors. Congratulations to Carlisle Floyd, James Levine, Richard Gaddes, and Leontyne Price!

Community Butterfly Drive Tomorrow!

Happy Halloween! If you have kids or find yourself strolling down State Street after the Farmers' Market tomorrow, stop on by the COMMUNITY BUTTERFLY DRIVE, a cooperative arts project in celebration of Madison Opera's Madama Butterfly. In partnership with the Monroe Street Fine Arts Center and Kids in the Rotunda, we're inviting children from the community to decorate butterflies to go on display in an aerial collage in the Overture Center lobby during performances on Nov. 21 and 23.

The info:
  • Nov. 1, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m., decorate butterflies in the Overture Center lobby, 201 State Street
  • Kids in the Rotunda on Nov. 1 is offering a rock'n'roll costume party, featuring performances by The Madgadders at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1 p.m.
  • Everything is FREE!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Heating up

It may have snowed yesterday in Madison, but in the office things are just beginning to heat up. Artists begin arriving next week, text and art for the Butterfly program are due Thursday, ads are popping up everywhere...this all has meant a slight deficit in blogging, but stay tuned for all sorts of multimedia behind-the-scenes action when rehearsals get started next week!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Butterfly Conductor Earns Praise in Wexford

Italian Maestro Leonardo Vordoni makes his US debut in Madison Opera's Madama Butterfly next month, and if his debut at Wexford Festival Opera in Ireland is any indication, we're all in for a treat. Helming the renowned festival's production of Perdotti's Tutti in Maschera, The Stage (UK) says, "Leonardo Vordoni conducts a spirited account of the score. An unmissable delight." Kudos!

UPDATE 10/22: "Conductor Leonardo Vordoni delivers all the zest and exuberance in the score and the opera is exceptionally well cast." -Irish Independent (Dublin)

UPDATE 10/27: "Conductor Leonardo Vordoni draws a scintillating performance from the orchestra, keeping the textures crisp, even in the beguiling Act III duet between Vittoria and Emilio..." -The Independent (UK)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Madison Opera Singer Fares Well at Met Opera Auditons

The Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions for Wisconsin were held in Milwaukee on Saturday. Mezz-soprano Jamie Van Eyck (pictured left), who plays Kate Pinkerton in our upcoming production of Madama Butterfly, was one of the co-winners to advance to the regional finals in Minneapolis. Read the whole story here!

Ms. Van Eyck, a native of Wausau, WI, is currently studying at UW-Madison with Julia Faulkner, the 1985 winner of the National Council Auditions and Madison Opera star of The Tender Land (2008). She has performed with Santa Fe Opera, Utah Opera, Opera Boston, and The Wolf Trap Opera Company in addition to the National Symphony Orchestra, Bostony Symphony Orchestra, Utah Symphony, and L.A. Philharmonic. At the Tanglewood Music Center's Festival of Contemporary Music, she performed the role of Mama in the highly acclaimed North American premiere of Elliott Carter's opera What Next? under the baton of James Levine. Madison Opera couldn't be more excited to have Ms. Van Eyck back in Wisconsin and performing with us!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Lucky Find

I was greeted with a nice surprise yesterday after picking my wife up at the University Library on the way home from work: the library was selling old classical music records for $1, and she had found a Madama Butterfly recording for me. It features the great Italians Toti Dal Monte and Beniamino Gigli as Cio-Cio San and Pinkerton at the Rome Opera House in 1939. This is, allegedly, the first professional recording of the opera ever made, and it is very cool to think that these were first-generation Puccini interpreters. While it certainly has its flaws (many of the supporting cast sound quite tinny and off pitch, and the characterizations of the Japanese characters are over the top even on record), the orchestra plays blazingly fast and furious, with a sharp, crisp interpretation that doesn't much wallow in the lushness of the score the way we expect Puccini to sound today. Dal Monte and Gigli both have voices that immediately date them, but there is also a timeless quality to both. The recording I have is an old RCA Victor, but Naxos has also released it on CD as part of their "Great Opera Recordings" series. See the YouTube clips below for soundbytes of Toti Dal Monte and Beniamino Gigli:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Madison Opera in the Community

The start of the 2008-2009 season is approaching, and as Madison Opera has expanded to present three full productions, our community outreach efforts have expanded as well. Here is a rundown of our current offerings:
  • HIGH SCHOOL APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM: This new program will give six juniors from local high schools the opportunity to attend Madison Opera rehearsals and productions, shadow guest artists, participate in coaching sessions with guest artists, and prepare a recital in our effort to provide talented students early exposure to opera and careers in the performing arts. The application period is ending this week; contact the office for any last minute inquiries!
  • A NIGHT AT THE OPERA: General Director Allan Naplan started A Night at the Opera in 2006 in partnership with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Dane County. The program brings local youth to the final dress rehearsal of our fall production and includes a pre-opera dinner and educational session. Rigoletto was such a big hit with the kids that this year for Butterfly we've aligned with the Goodman Atwood Community Center and the Boys and Girls Club in addition to Big Brothers/Big Sisters in an effort to expand our reach. Other local youth groups are welcome to join us for the Nov. 19 event, just give a me a call or e-mail in the office to receive an invitation and further details (that's Brian at 238-8085 or
  • COMMUNITY BUTTERFLY DRIVE: We're calling upon local centers of arts and education for the young to create butterflies to go on display in the Overture Center lobby during our opening weekend, Nov. 21-23. The idea is to engage diverse communities in Madison in a collective, creative project for all to share pride in. Again, interested schools and groups are welcome to contact me in the office if we haven't already contacted you, and we'll get you the Butterfly templates needed!
And don't forget these ongoing and future community outreach events at Madison Opera:
  • OPERA UP CLOSE: For each season production, Allan Naplan hosts this two hour event at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art to offer an engaging behind-the-scenes look at the opera. The series is exciting and informative for both the opera beginner and weathered fan. For Madama Butterfly, Sunday, Nov. 16 is the date, from 4-6 pm. Be sure to get your tickets in advance by calling the office at 238-8085 and speaking with Natalie.
  • PRE-OPERA TALKS: One hour before every performance, hear Allan Naplan discuss the production for free! The perfect way to kick off an evening or afternoon of opera.
  • STUDENT MATINEE: May 13, 2009, schools from around Wisconsin will come to Madison for the final dress rehearsal of Gounod's Faust. The Badger High School music department in Lake Geneva says of the program, "Once again, Madison Opera has done a sparkling job of bringing our young people and the world of opera together. As we headed home, many students wanted to sign up for next year."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What people will do to get their hands on opera in Madison when it's really as easy as calling the Overture Center Box Office at (608) 258-4141...

Laptop opera music leads to wild chase

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 8, 2008, 11:04 a.m.
By Linda Spice

A Madison burglary that began with opera music playing on a laptop computer ended with a police officer being assaulted and a citizen using a wrestling hold to pin the suspect for police.

The Madison man, 34, was arrested on Monday on possible charges of residential burglary, battery to a law enforcement officer, resisting a law enforcement officer and a parole hold, according to police.

The victim, a 26-year-old man, told police he had been listening to opera music on his laptop computer which was on top of a table near a window. He heard some rustling at the window and stood up in time to see a man reach through the freshly cut window screen and grab his computer.

The victim and others chased the suspect down. The man got his laptop back about the time that the chase caught the attention of a Madison police officer who was parked at James Madison Park to type up reports.

It was about 5:40 p.m. when the officer heard citizens shouting about a suspect on the run with a stolen laptop computer.

The officer spotted a foot chase nearby and drove - red lights and siren on - in the direction of the pursuit. A witness told the officer the suspect was running toward Lake Mendota, where the officer drove and spotted the suspect. The officer's subsequent foot chase ended when the suspect encountered a six-foot chain link fence.

The man attempted to climb the fence but the officer grabbed his jacket and pants and pulled him down. After a struggle, the suspect broke free when he elbowed the officer in the chest.

The suspect next encountered another citizen, a former wrestler with 13 years of grappling experience, who tackled the suspect.

"The citizen later told officers he knew if he put an elbow near the side of the suspect's face that the suspect would be pinned and unable to move," according to a police report.

A backup officer arrived and the former wrestler stepped back.

The suspect continued to struggle until he was shocked with a Taser, according to police.

Police later found $500 stuffed in the suspect's socks.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

View From the Desk: Part 1

Single tickets went on sale yesterday and Madama Butterfly is just around the corner. Still, rehearsals haven't started and the artists are not yet here, so the bulk of Madison Opera activity right now is confined to our Monroe Street office. We promised behind-the-scenes access from both "administrative and artistic perspectives," so here goes with the view from the desks of a few Madison Opera staffers at this point in the pre-season:
  • Lauren, our Office Manager, says it perfectly: "This is definitely the calm before the storm, and I use the term 'calm' very loosely." Right now, she's busy issuing and mailing contracts to artistic and production personell and making travel arrangements for those same people. She's also compiling Madison Opera Chorus information for the upcoming season, preparing a mailing for our Student Matinee (which isn't until May!), and getting a contact list together for an upcoming community project we're going to host (stay tuned for more on this, it involves origami!). On top of these big tasks, some of Lauren's day to day activities include press clippings, archiving files, and answering all inquiries to the office by phone or mail. She's also our Office Depot liason.
  • Natalie is our Patron Services Manager, which essentially translates into tickets, tickets, tickets. She's just completed the massive task of mailing out around 650 ticket orders at the close of our season subscription period, which lasted from April until now. In the weeks to come she'll be handling group sales, complimentary tickets, gift certificates, and any other non-single ticket type of purchase. Our tickets are physically printed at the Overture Center, so she checks in there pretty regularly. With the subscription period over, she says she'll also be helping out the development dept. with organzing our opening weekend celebration.
  • As for me, well, I'm writing this blog for one thing, and also managing our new Facebook and MySpace pages while communicating with our website monitor regularly on various updates to make. September was a busy month, with four press releases going out and planning the season's marketing campaigns, which has entailed meeting with various ad reps around town and mapping out placement schedules. I also sent out my first E-blast through Patronmail last week, a program that was time consuming to figure out the first time around, and I've been working with Gen. Dir. Allan Naplan on launching our High School Apprenticeship Program. This past week I've been firming up the details of our "A Night at the Opera" event and publicizing that to local community groups. The weeks to come will involve quite a bit of correspondence with our ad designer and local ad reps, ensuring Butterfly is getting proper attention in the local media, reviewing HS apprentice applications, and organizing and editing all of the content for our Butterfly program.
The expanded season and growing number of outreach initiatives and special events surrounding Butterfly are all cause for great excitement, and it's been great to come into this new position with so much to do. It only gets busier from here, as this is the not-so-calm "calm before the storm!"